Court Sides Against Local Professor in 1A Suit

Collin College library | Image by Victoria Ditkovsky

A legal battle between Collin College and a former history professor claiming the school violated his civil rights ended this week with the jury siding with the school.

Represented by attorney Greg Greubel and supported by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), Michael Phillips sued his former employer over a year ago when his contract ending in May 2022 was not renewed.

While Collin College insisted that its professors had “no right or reasonable expectation of continued employment beyond the term of the contract,” Phillips claimed that the dismissal had been in retaliation for his left-leaning politics, according to KERA.

As previously covered in The Dallas Express, Phillips was one of four former Collin College professors to file suit while citing freedom of speech violations by the institution in 2022.

Phillips suggested to KERA at the time that they had all been dismissed due to expressing their opinions regarding what they believed to be the school’s “lax” COVID-19 guidelines. He also mentioned how the school authorities had scolded him for referring to his employment there when telling news outlets how he believed local Civil War monuments should be removed.

“My hope would be that the college reassess this record they have now of trampling on the faculty,” he had said regarding his decision to sue.

Two of the former professors’ cases were settled out of court, with Lora Burnett receiving $70,000 and Suzanne Jones being reinstated at Collin College.

Ultimately, the trial last week convinced the Grayson County jury to side with the defendant, Collin College.

Jurors cited finding it reasonable to believe that Neil Matkin, the school’s president, would have opted against renewing Phillips’ contract regardless of whether he had voiced his opinions in public, according to The Texas Tribune.

Marisela Cadena-Smith, a spokesperson for Collin College, applauded the jury’s decision in a news release.

“From the beginning the college vehemently disagreed with Dr. Phillips’ mischaracterization of this personnel matter.  … Collin College respects the judicial process and is extremely pleased that the jury in this case agreed with the position of Collin College and other defendants.”

Meanwhile, Greubel spoke on behalf of Phillips, saying that while they were “deeply disappointed by the outcome,” FIRE would continue to fight for faculty members’ First Amendment rights nationwide, according to KERA.

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